In recent years, you may have become aware of the need to take health into your own hands. How you choose to live each day could affect your resistance to diseases as well as predict how long you will live. What if planting a garden could actually extend your life? A new study by Harvard University says that gardening could actually save your life and reduce risk of disease.

Lowered Mortality

What if living longer was as simple as surrounding yourself with greenery? Researchers say that women who live in a heavily vegetated area have a 34% lower risk of death from respiratory diseases and 13% lowered risk of cancer compared to women who have less vegetation around their homes. Overall, they experienced a 12% lower mortality rate.

The study measured vegetation using satellite imaging around each of the women’s homes and neighborhoods. Other factors were taken into account for the study, including smoking, socioeconomic status, age, race and ethnicity. The link between green vegetation and lowered mortality was incredibly surprising and promising to researchers as evidence of environment nurturing life.

Mental Health

Another surprising finding of the study was that heavily vegetated areas could result in improved mental health for women. Some researchers speculate that the presence of greenery and nature have a calming effect on the human psyche that can relieve and reduce risks from mental illness. With depression becoming a rampant disease in our fast-paced society, researchers were pleasantly surprised to find decreased levels of depression in women who live in green areas.

Researchers believe that humans are designed to have an instinctive calming response when in natural environments. Similar to the stress an animal receives in a caged environment, humans can respond poorly to urban lifestyles. The brain seems to over-process when viewing a cityscape as opposed to the calming that takes place when looking at a photograph of a natural area.

Physical Health

Perhaps the clearest benefit of gardening has always applied to physical health. Exercise performed while gardening can more than achieve your weekly requirements, in terms of cardio and stretching. Most gardeners spend a minimum of five hours at work in the garden each week, more than making up for time spent at the gym!

Additionally, the increased nutrient value and health of fresh produce is unmatched for benefits in physical health. Avoiding pesticides and commercially grown produce can reduce your risks of certain cancers and ensure full vitamin and nutrient value in each piece of produce. Studies have shown that people who invest time and effort in their garden find more fulfillment when it produces fruit, and have more joy preparing and consuming their vegetables.